Speaking at the Credit Today Credit Summit in London, FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley said that given 30 million people hold at least one credit card it was right that the regulator explores whether competition in this market was working effectively for consumers.
With the FCA taking responsibility for Consumer Credit on April 1, Wheatley said he was keen for the study to ask how the industry worked with those people who were in difficult financial situations already.
Recent research showed nine million Britons were considered to be in serious debt and that a considerable number of people, “survival borrowers”, often feel they have no option but to borrow money, through a payday loan or using a credit card, to help pay their bills.
Wheatley said: “The key priority here has to be those in the most vulnerable circumstances. Many of whom are struggling to manage their credit card commitments, as well as other bills.
“Among the UK’s 30m plus cardholders, something like 3.7% make minimum payments for 12 months which is the equivalent to more than a million borrowers making 12 or more consecutive minimum payments.
“So, we know it’s not uncommon for the most ‘at risk’ households to hold multiple cards and revolve multiple balances month-by-month.
“There are some obvious questions and challenges here for regulators and industry: why are card issuers providing the means, in some cases, for the most indebted consumers to escalate their way into further debt?
“As part of this review, or market study as we call it, we will be engaging with the industry ahead of time and it’s important to say there’s no pre-determined terms of reference, outcome or agenda here.
“There is however, a duty of care to consumers, and I think it’s important for there to be clarification of whether competition is working in their interests.”